Technology, Diversity and Flexibility Are Key to Workforce Challenges — PtboCanada

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Voice of Business: Technology, Diversity and Flexibility Are Key to Workforce Challenges — PtboCanada

The labour issues hitting businesses across the country didn’t start with the pandemic, but it did accelerate the problem to a point where it’s one of the biggest issues holding back economic growth.

According to a survey by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC):

  • 55 per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs are struggling to hire the workers they need

  • 64 per cent report that labour shortage limits their growth

  • 61 per cent must increase their hours and/or their employees’ hours

  • 49 per cent must increase wages and benefits

  • 44 per cent have delayed or unable to deliver orders to clients

Lack of access to a workforce with the right skills is holding back businesses and hiring difficulties increase in smaller communities.

Nationally, unemployment has fallen to 5.2 per cent.

Our economy is bouncing back, but that’s putting further strain on businesses’ ability to hire. Projections range on when things will return “back to normal,” but we can say with confidence these challenges aren’t going away in the short term.

These issues were decades in the making, but ultimately what is important is finding our path forward.

What businesses are doing according to BDC:

  • Offering flexible work arrangements (e.g. telework, flextime, compressed workweeks) – 37 per cent

  • Internally training less-qualified workers – 35 per cent

  • Recruiting younger workers and/or students – 26 per cent

  • Hiring freelancers or contractual or independent workers – 25 per cent

  • Recruiting immigrants and/or foreign workers – 10 per cent

  • Automating certain areas (e.g. using robotics, cognitive agents, smart workflows or advanced analytics) – 10 per cent

  • Recruiting older/previously retired workers – 9 per cent

BDC notes Increasing diversity and flexibility are important for business growth, including three key areas: youth, immigrants, and older workers. Immigration in Canada slowed to a crawl through the pandemic. Both youth and immigrants bring skills and a willingness to grow and develop. BDC recommends offering more opportunities to youth and immigrants as a way to make better use of our workforce.

When it comes to older workers, we need to address flexibility. They have an incredible set of skills and experience that our economy has relied on for years. Workers approaching retirement may no longer be interested in working full-time hours but could be open to part-time and hybrid options.

More and more businesses are turning to automation as a way to streamline the business. For most businesses, it’s not a case of a robot replacing a staff member — it’s all the small things adding up to a more efficient process. Examples include:

  • Automated email marketing campaigns

  • Chatbots and automated messaging systems

  • Sales lead generation and management

  • Touchscreen ordering

  • Self-checkouts

  • Online booking and automated appointments

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems

  • Collect job applications

Businesses can further streamline by adopting new technology like updated email systems, shared digital calendars, and cloud-based workflow systems.

There’s no single solution that’s going to answer our workforce challenges. The local business community has shown its ability to adapt, pivot, and invest in new technology. The challenges facing businesses continue to change, but our economy is growing and to grow with it businesses need to be open and flexible in growing their workforce.

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